'I Would Never, Ever Try to Kill Myself;' Aaron Salazar Finally Able to Speak About Amtrak Incident
Aaron Salazar's family says he is beginning to speak. The 22-year-old was found severely injured next to railroad tracks in Truckee in May.
UPDATE, November 29 2018:
22-year-old Aaron Salazar says his injuries are not the result of attempted suicide, as Amtrak investigators have suggested. Salazar's family has fought the claim of attempted suicide from the beginning, and they're relieved to now hear the denial straight from Aaron's own mouth.
Salazar recently moved home with his parents in Colorado, after being released from a facility specializing in treatment of patients with spinal cord and brain injuries, a couple of weeks ago. He is now able to fully communicate. His cousin, Sonia Trujillo, shared a video of Salazar thanking everyone for their prayers, thoughts and letters, ending with this statement, "I want you all to know that I did not jump off the train. I would never, ever try to kill myself."
The message conflicts with Amtrak's investigation suggesting he attempted suicide back in May. This was after Amtrak police say they spoke with fellow passengers on his train, who said the young man seemed 'distraught.'
Unfortunately, Salazar's family says his injuries have left him unable to remember much. Trujillo says, "He doesn't even remember being on a train, he doesn't remember going to Colorado to see his family."
However, Trujillo says Salazar has read multiple articles about his story and says he was devastated to see Amtrak's claims, "They're claiming that he jumped and he's like, 'That doesn't look good for me.' He was very upset."
Amtrak said in a statement today, "We are glad Aaron is improving and look forward to talking with him and any other witnesses as part of the investigation."
Earlier this year, Amtrak's Chief of Police said Truckee Police are not involved since the incident appeared to have happened entirely on the train. It's a policy his family would like to see changed.
Amtrak wouldn't answer any further questions today, citing the ongoing investigation.
Trujillo says they are still trying to raise money to install wheelchair accessible equipment around the home. If you'd like to help out, you can see Aaron's GoFundMe account here.
Trujillo adds that he is trying to walk again and they're hopeful he'll make a full recovery.
UPDATE: Aaron Salazar's family confirms that Aaron is now able to speak again.
His cousins, Austin Salis and Sonia Trujillo say that Aaron is beginning to speak, even saying hello to Austin via facetime.
His family tells us that at this time Aaron does not remember anything about the incident that left him severely injured next to railroad tracks in Truckee in May.
Salis says the doctors say Aaron may be able to remember in time.
UPDATE: Aaron Salazar's family says he is heading home to Colorado after the 22-year-old was found severely injured next to railroad tracks in Truckee in May.
On August 11, the family's GoFundMe page posted that Salazar is no longer bedridden and that he is in a wheelchair, and eating "normal food" like macaroni and cheese. His cousin, Sonia Trujillo says he cannot speak or write, but is able to sometimes communicate with a head nod.
He has been transferred to a Colorado facility that specializes exclusively in neuro-rehabilitation and research of patients with spinal cord and brain injuries.
Previously the family said that he moved to another medical facility after being let out of the ICU.
Amtrak still maintains there is no indication of foul play in this case, saying in a statement to KTVN on Monday: "The investigation remains open, pending any new information or the opportunity to interview Mr. Salazar. After an extensive investigation by the Amtrak Police Department, in coordination with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, there is no indication of criminal activity at this time."
We asked if it is common for the family to hear from attorneys rather than detectives, Amtrak says it varies on a case-by-case basis, but say that they have provided updates and answered questions from the family.
On June 14th, the family's GoFundMe page posted,
“First and foremost As many know Aaron was was moved to another facility in Reno as he is no longer in the ICU. He still is touch and go at times but compared to where he first was his progress is amazing. But although we are optimistic we feel it is only fair to everyone who follows Aaron's story, as we consider you all family that Aaron's signs of responding to family at times are not very consistent. And he still suffers from having a fever, and recently has been battling pneumonia. This is a long battle and your prayers are still much needed.”
The family is also asking people to sign a petition urging Amtrak to open their investigation to the FBI. You can see it here.
On May 30th, Salazar's family released a statement one day after Amtrak's Chief of Police held a press conference on its ongoing investigation.
The family says:
As Aaron’s father and mother, we are releasing our official first public statement on what has happened with our son. We have many problems with Amtrak’s press conference today. First and foremost, Amtrak is a for-profit company that is currently investigating its own case to prevent any liability.
“From the very start, they ruled this case an attempted suicide. Their investigators gave us misleading information, including telling us that they had a witness who saw Aaron jump out a window on the train.
“When we fact-checked their claim and confronted the detective, he simply backpedaled his statement. Amtrak’s investigators only investigated the case as an attempt at suicide.
“Second, regarding the Amtrak chief of police’s statement—his claims about Aaron’s injuries falling from a train are not consistent with what anyone who has seen Aaron can attest to. For one, those burns that were supposedly from jumping out of a train are not consistent with the facts because Aaron’s jeans were not damaged and his injuries themselves do not match jumping out of a train.
“We are also surprised by this false theory because they have never had medical experts examine his body to determine the cause of his injuries. Their form of investigation has been little more than a smear campaign to sweep Aaron’s story under the rug like Robin Putnam’s case a few years ago.”
UPDATE from May 29, 2018:
Amtrak's Chief of Police now says evidence suggests that a passenger found severely injured next to railroad tracks in Truckee may have tried to kill himself. During a press conference on Tuesday, he also said that there's no evidence right now that suggests criminal intent, and that passengers who interacted with 22-year-old Aaron Salazar said he seemed "distraught."
“He was dealing with some issues, not getting into details, but dealing with life-challenging issues.”
He also said that a foreman on a passing train noticed an open window, which typically don't open. He added that no cameras show what happened.
Amtrak's Chief of Police also said that they do coordinate often with local jurisdictions but since this appeared to have happened entirely on the train, Truckee Police are not involved.
Salazar was found in a remote area four miles east of Truckee.
Police say authorities didn't get DNA samples from Salazar's fingernails like his family thinks they should have.
They also said that they believe they have an explanation for the burns on his groin area but that they don't want to disclose that information right now.
On Monday, the family said that Salazar was breathing on his own and is now off a ventilator. Salazar suffered broken bones, a damaged brain stem and severe burns.
The Portland State University student has been in a coma for more a week at Renown's ICU, after a mysterious incident on his way home via Amtrak.
His family is demanding answers.
The Truckee Police Department says while its thoughts are with Salazar, his family and friends, it is not actively involved in the investigation. It also says police don't know what happened to Salazar or what the investigation might reveal. (You can read the rest of their statement below.)
The 22-year-old was on Amtrak on his way home from Denver, where he was visiting family. On his short train stop in Truckee around 9:30 A.M. on May 15th, something tragic happened.
His family says they have been "left in the dark" in regards to their questions to investigators.
His cousin, Sonia Trujillo, was one of the first to visit Salazar in the hospital, "He was severely bruised on both sides of his ribs, on his abs, the broken nose, he has a C5 injury; but the concerning sign that doesn't make any sense--is he has severe burns between his thighs that go down his leg."
His family flew in last Tuesday after getting the call. The next day, Trujillo says a detective with Amtrak police came by to ask questions. She says they tried to ask the detective questions about the case, but that "he wouldn't respond."
Trujillo says they would not answer simple questions like exactly where or what time it happened, or if there are surveillance cameras that may have caught it. When she asked him why, she says, "He just said it's an ongoing investigation."
Although it happened in Truckee, Trujillo is concerned because she says only Amtrak police are investigating.
According to the Amtrak police website, "APD Officers investigate various types of crimes that occur within and around stations, trains and right-of-ways."
A spokesman told us in a statement, "The Amtrak Police Department is conducting an ongoing investigation into this incident. At this time, there is nothing to suggest criminal intent. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Amtrak Police Department at 800-331-0008."
Amtrak later sent another statement, adding, "The Amtrak Police Department has conducted numerous interviews with customers, crew members, family and friends, as well as reviewed other available data and sources. After reviewing all the available material, the FBI was contacted and made aware of this investigation. At this time, there is nothing to suggest criminal intent. We have been in contact with Aaron’s parents and provided them updates on the investigation."
However, Trujillo and the rest of Salazar's family are not convinced that it was an accident, like a fall or a jump. Trujillo explains, "There's no scrapes, there's no road rash, none of that, all of his injuries are upper body."
While the family believes someone else to be involved, they don't think it was a robbery, but perhaps what they consider a 'hate crime.' Trujillo explains he had his wallet on him, "He had all his money, he had his phone, you know. He is gay."
Salazar's cousin is also concerned about his last known communication with the family. Salazar texted his grandmother around 9 A.M. that Tuesday, telling her that he made a friend on the train, and that they were going to explore Sacramento together on a long layover.
Now, the family wants to know who that person was, and if they know anything.
In the meantime, the heartbroken family is awaiting Salazar's brain wave results in the ICU. Trujillo says they're "praying and hoping for the best."
While Salazar is on a ventilator, Trujillo says he is showing signs of trying to breathe on his own. Doctors have not yet made a prognosis.
On Thursday, May 24th, the Truckee Police Department released this statement:
It is the policy and best practice of most public safety organizations to not comment on another agency’s investigation, particularly if that investigation is active. However, since much of the information that is circulating on social media and in some news stories is inaccurate, speculative, or simply false, the Truckee Police Department would like to clarify a few things.
First and foremost, our most sincere and heartfelt thoughts are with Aaron, the Salazar family, and his friends. We are worried for Aaron, and want him to quickly recover.
We are not actively involved in the investigation and do not know what happened to Aaron or what the investigation might reveal. Amtrak is the most appropriate authority for this investigation being that all information indicates that the incident was confined to occurring on an Amtrak train. Amtrak Police clearly have jurisdiction over incidents connected to their trains and it is important to allow the investigative process to divulge what likely happened.
The Truckee Police Department will never allow a conspiracy or cover-up to occur regarding any incident or investigation. Any suggestions to the contrary reflect a lack of factual information or knowledge of our organization and community. The Truckee Police Department will also never allow a crime against the LGBTQIA community to go unaddressed or uninvestigated. A case where a hate crime was committed would be addressed to the fullest extent of our capabilities. The Truckee community is not in danger and never was. We did not release information out of professional courtesy to Amtrak and to protect the investigative process as well as the confidentiality of the Salazar family.
We understand how frustrating it can be to not have all the information when there is genuine concern and a desire to help. The Truckee Police Department has no control over the release of substantive information in this incident, since another agency is handling the investigation. We do ask, out of respect for Aaron, his family and for the investigative process that speculation, guessing, or rumors not be the basis for drawing conclusions.